Structuring your community for organization and leadership and defining the teams and their roles is an important task to ensure that all aspects of planning and work are taken care of. In this post I will give you some ideas on how to break down the physical areas of your community and how to organize the different roles needed for long term survival.

This is part 5 in a series on Community Preparedness. If you have yet to do so, please read part 1, Community Preparedness – Engaging our Neighbors for Mutual Survival, part 2 Community Preparedness – Getting Started, part 3 Community Preparedness – 24 Meeting Ideas to Engage Your Community and part 4 Community Preparedness – Analysis and Documentation.


The main topics of this post are:

  • Community Structure – This defines how you breakdown the physical areas of your community to assign leadership roles for communicating, checking on people and activating teams.

  • Group and Team Roles and Responsibilities – What teams are necessary for community preparedness and what their roles and responsibilities are.

Community Structure

Dividing the community into manageable physical areas for checking on people, gathering and giving information and reporting up the chain of command.  This command structure is used to activate procedures and call up resources when there is a need. The breakdown will depend on the number of homes and how close they are to each other.

Each group should have someone in charge and an alternate in case the main person is unavailable. The following is a good way to break down your community into manageable chunks:

  • If you are organizing for an entire town or multiple areas, the top level should be the community/neighborhood that can have multiple divisions.

  • Divisions – A division is a street or group of streets within the community. This grouping should have a reasonable number of homes to look out for such as 20 to 30 with 4 to 6 Block Leaders reporting to the Division Leader.

  • Blocks – Depending on how far houses are apart a block could be an entire street or could be 4 to 6 houses on a street. This small number of homes makes it easy for the Block Leader to quickly check on their area of responsibility and communicate with leadership.

Groups and Teams

The purpose of defining groups and teams is so you can start to think about organizing and defining the things your community needs to do and who will be responsible. It helps you to start thinking about roles and responsibilities and to start working on operational procedures. As you think about things that need to be dealt with you can add them to the appropriate team’s list to deal with it. You can create skeleton operation procedures to document what you know needs to happen and when more members come on board, they have structure and ideas as a starting point.

As you read through the groups and teams and their responsibilities, it may seem a bit overwhelming or overkill but when more people come on board you will be glad you created the structure for organization.

In the beginning, with only a few people, everyone will be involved in brainstorming, planning and doing the things. There may only be one or two people for an entire group. As people come on board you can assess their skills and determine where they can be most useful.

Each group and team should have a leader and at least one alternate. Depending on the number of people and skills, group and team leaders could be rotated to give people experience and not burn people out.

The following defines a possible breakdown of groups and teams:


  • Leadership and Planning Group
    • Leadership Team
    • Planning and Logistics Team
    • Legal Team

  • Emergency Response Group
    • Fire Team
    • Search and Rescue Team
    • Triage and First Aid

  • Operations Group
    • Food Team
    • Water Team
    • Engineering and Maintenance Team
    • Medical Team
    • Sanitation Team
    • Member Care Team

  • Security Group
    • Training Team
    • Patrol Team
    • Communication and Intel Team

Leadership and Planning Group

This group is responsible for the overall planning and management of efforts for pre and post disaster activities. They are responsible for outreach to the local community, local government and first responders and will oversee law and order when there is a lack of government available.

  • Leadership Team – The leadership team consists of all of the Group Leaders and possibly Team Leaders and is responsible for making decisions on plans, coordinating with outside parties and activating the Groups and Teams when they are needed. One person from the groups and divisions should be selected as the top leader and an alternate should be designated.

    This will likely be one of the most difficult teams to staff. Some people that have leadership skills will not want to lead and others that should never be a leader will press hard to become one. Take care in assigning these roles and define a way up front for the group to replace a leader if necessary. I would suggest reading a few books on leadership. There are several about Community Leadership on Amazon.

  • Planning and Logistics Team – The Planning and Logistics Team works with the Leadership team and Group Leaders to coordinate work efforts, prioritize activities and resources, and work with the government’s emergency response group.  

  • Legal Team – This team ensures that democracy continues when a breakdown in government occurs. They will provide a system for addressing grievances between members and provide direction in dealing with crime from members and outsiders.

Emergency Response Group


This group is responsible for responding to emergencies such as fires or damage from a storm or flood. They activate quickly to get people and resources ready to help the community to save lives and minimize property damage.

The CERT organization has the best resources for defining how the teams and people work within this group. See more info on CERT’s website. The CERT Organization PowerPoint for Class 6 shows their organization structure. This structure is defined for large scale disasters where volunteers from the surrounding area come to help with a community disaster so I think it is a bit over the top for an SHFT scenario where other communities may not be able to help. I have minimized the structure for our purposes in the following way:

  • Group Leader – This person is responsible for overseeing the emergency, allocating resources and directing all activities.

  • Fire Team – Responds to fires and educates people on fire safety.

  • Search and Rescue – Handles light search and rescue efforts to safely remove people from buildings.

  • Triage and First Aid – Provides triage and first aid to people that have been rescued or affected by an event.

Operations Group

This group is responsible for the ongoing work of feeding, hydrating, providing medical services and ensuring people have adequate shelter,  heat and sanitation capability.

  • Food Team – This team is responsible for educating people on creating their own food storage plan, growing gardens, raising livestock and learning to preserve food. They would oversee community gardens, bulk food purchase and storage and developing plans for feeding the community in the long term.

  • Water Team – The Water Team job is to educate people on filtering and purifying water and building individual water catchment systems. They would design large scale water purification and storage systems for the community.

  • Engineering and Maintenance Team – This team provides help in keeping homes structurally sound, building and installing woodstoves, and providing alternative power resources.

  • Medical Team – Handles all aspects of medical care and the procurement and management of supplies and equipment. Responsible for oversight of growing medicinal herbs and creating tinctures, teas and salves. Promotes healthy lifestyles and provides recommendations on safely doing work.

  • Sanitation Team – This team plans and helps build latrines and provides alternatives to toilet paper.

  • Member Care Team – Checks on people on a regular basis to ensure their physical, mental and spiritual needs are being met.

Security Group

This group is responsible for providing security, intelligence and organizing and training members to defend the community.

  • Training Team – Trains all able members in using weapons and on the plan for defending the community.

  • Patrol Team – Responsible for providing 24/7 patrols, manning road blocks and observation posts. Every able-bodied person needs to be trained and take shifts on this team.

  • Communications and Intel Team – Procures, manages and operates the communication equipment needed for intelligence and keeping members informed. Creates plans for channel usage and trains members on using equipment.

Decision Making

Possibly the toughest thing to do is to decide on how you will manage the group and make decisions. There are several ways to achieve this so you need to think through the pros and cons of each. Some examples of making decisions and things to think about are:

  • Majority vote – Everyone gets to vote on issues and decisions.

  • Council – This is group (and possibly team) leaders that discuss and give arguments for or against a decision and then make decisions for the entire community.

  • Single Leader – One person is in charge of all aspects of leadership and makes the decisions. This may work well in the beginning with a small group but when a lot of people are involved it will become tough to ensure that peoples voices are being heard and their needs are being taken care of.


  • When you vote on something, what percentage of people are needed to decide? 51%, 2/3 or 100% agreement?

  • Do only committed members who have participated and contributed in building the group get a vote?

  • Are votes secret or do you raise hands so everyone knows where people stand?

  • Not all decisions need to be voted on or be presented at a council meeting. You need to give group and team leaders leeway to make decisions and set direction for their responsibilities.


There is a lot of thinking needed to define how you will organize and manage the people and work required to build and operate a community preparedness group. There are several sections of this post that could become posts on their own. I have only given you a brief overview on this topic. I suggest you spend some time researching other articles and books on this subject so that you can come up with a framework that works best for you.

Please see the other posts in this series:

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  • Andrew Parks

    Another well written article on the importance of community. It’s going to take people willing to work together for the common good to survive an SHTF scenario. Better to get it all planned out now than when the balloon goes up.

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